Dynaudio Focus 110 Speaker System & Denon AVR-4806CI A/V Receiver
Why do people who spend for- tunes on their cars look askance at high-end audio equipment? They wouldn't be seen dead backing a budget SUV out of their driveways. But, when they choose the gear that mediates their relationship with music and movies, they condemn themselves to poverty. Audio systems are shadows to them. They're all the same, so why pay more? These sad people drive their $70,000 cars to Circuit City and pay three figures for a mediocre HTIB. I once wrote about portable audio for an outdoorsy men's magazine. When I suggested that high-end headphones are as valid as high-end hiking gear, the editor gave me a perplexed and somewhat dirty look.
He'd probably have thrown me out of his office if I'd suggested anything like the Dynaudio Focus 110 speaker system and Denon AVR-4806CI receiver. The Dynaudios, at $700 each, are modest monitor-sized speakers. If you just glanced at the review samples, you might mistake them for something far less costly. The Denon, on the other hand, announces its high-end status with its sheer size. Second from the top of Denon's line, this $4,000 receiver is the largest one I've ever lifted onto my equipment rack, and, at more than 52 pounds, it's also the heaviest. Together, the Dynaudios and Denon form an $8,500 system. As you'll see, you get what you pay for.
The Well-Stuffed Trapezoid
Dynaudio is located in the northern part of the Danish peninsula. The company is a big believer in the power of high-quality drivers to animate a loudspeaker. Within three years of their birth in 1977, Dynaudio began designing and manufacturing drivers for both themselves and other brands. North American distribution of finished products started in 1995; products using Dynaudio drivers had snuck onto our shelves years earlier. The company's eight product lines include many highly regarded models in the two-channel sphere, as well as in-walls, IP-based speakers, and subwoofers.
The Focus 110 is the baby of the line. Other members, not reviewed here, include the Focus 140, a larger monitor; the Focus 220, a floorstanding speaker; and the Focus 200 C center-channel speaker. I deliberately avoided using the center in the system under review because I prefer to use identical speakers all around—that's the best way to produce a seamless soundfield.
Viewed from above, the enclosure looks like a trapezoid. The front and back surfaces are parallel, but the sides taper from front to back to reduce internal reflections. I pulled off the grilles to expose Dynaudio's pride and joy, along with more of the wood grain.
The silk dome tweeter is coated with a proprietary substance that Dynaudio would not divulge, add-
ing that "its primary purpose is to offer increased thermal capacity, increased damping, and an extended high-frequency response free of distortion." The crossover between the drivers is impedance-corrected so the load never drops below 4 ohms. These speakers are designed for use with a receiver, albeit a better-than-average one.
What appears to be a large dust cap on the 5.9-inch magnesium silicate polymer midwoofer is actually an integral part of the one-piece cone. The slotted outline of this outer part traces the outline of the voice coil beneath it. Dynaudio says this "geometrically optimized flat-membrane shape allows a direct voice coil attachment to the cone with fewer adhesive joints." This is meant to achieve better transient and phase response, controlled dispersion, longer driver life, and stability under challenging temperatures and humidity.
The SUB 250 has a few unusual connectivity options. To allow daisy-chaining, you can switch it to operate as either a master or a slave. When you connect it between a receiver and speakers, the sub uses line-level (not speaker-level) connections with a high-pass filter that you can switch between three settings: 60 hertz, 80 Hz, or flat. I used it in the conventional way, using the receiver's sub-out connection and bypassing the sub's internal crossover.
Dynaudio packs foam plugs with the speakers in case you find the bass output from the rear ports to be too aggressive. I kept the speakers well out from the wall and didn't need the plugs.
The Denon AVR-4806CI is a features piata. No fewer than 25 logos festoon its Web listing. Its rated 140 watts times seven are THX Ultra2 certified, so this receiver will play loud and proud in a room of up to 3,000 cubic feet with THX Ultra2–certified speakers (and then some, I suspect). Another feature worth mentioning is the Audyssey MultEQ auto-setup and calibration system. It is designed to improve over conventional room EQ systems by performing calculations on the time-domain response as well as the frequency response. (See the Hook Me Up column in our August issue for more on Audyssey.)
With all sources upconverted to 1080p, this receiver can feed your bleeding-edge video display with one HDMI cable. It supports the HDMI 1.1 version. There are a couple of other high-quality interfaces here that precious few other receivers have. One of these is IEEE 1394, a.k.a. FireWire, which is my favorite way to connect a universal player. It accesses Super Audio CD, DVD-Audio, Dolby Digital, and DTS soundtracks. The Ethernet jack is compatible with Microsoft's PlaysForSure digital rights management. Whichever jack you use for digital audio, Denon's world-beating AL24 digital-to-analog conversion delivers superb audio quality by minimizing the audible effects of quantization noise, an inherent weakness of digital formats. I vividly remember the demo at AL24's introduction years ago—to me, it's one of the best DACs built into any receiver.